Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Violent and Scary Fourth Book of the Oz Series

This time around, Dorothy has returned from her trip to Australia in Ozma of Oz. She leaves a train from San Francisco and, with her feminine parasol and pet cat, Eureka (Toto is still AWOL), waits for her second cousin Zeb. He arrives driving a cart pulled by his scrawny workhorse, Jim, to take her to Hugson’s Ranch. After a brief ride, a terrifying earthquake causes a fissure to open in the earth. The carriage plummets into the chasm people, animals, and all. This continues a pattern whereby people enter the fairy countries via what should normally be lethal natural disasters. In the underground vegetable kingdom, Dorothy reunites, by pure coincidence, with the Wizard of Oz himself, and together with Zeb, Eureka, Jim, and the Wizard’s nine miniature piglets he bought in Los Angeles, they embark on a journey to ascend through various underground worlds and return to the surface. The most perilous threat they face, aside from the Mangaboos, are the Wooden Gargoyles in the third country. The Gargoyles apparently ritually abduct and kill everyone who enters their domain.

Eventually, Dorothy and her friends become trapped in a cavern above a dragon’s den. Here their journey comes to an anticlimactic conclusion when Dorothy performs her signal so that Ozma can use the magic belt to deus ex machina the characters back to Oz, where a few chapters of whimsy and comedic sketches play out before the novel concludes. The ending, which renders their journey almost pointless, highlights an issue: Ozma having the magic belt allows her to get Dorothy and friends out of any situation so easily that it potentially undermines any possible conflict.

To return to the opening, Dorothy, Zeb, Eureka, and Jim descend through the deadly fissure, more and more slowly, until the fall can no longer hurt them. “Dorothy sighed and commenced to breathe easier. She began to realize that death was not in store for her, after all, but that she had merely started upon another adventure, which promised to be just as queer and unusual as were those she had before encountered” (24). Jim and Eureka start talking, and Dorothy knows they are back in fairyland. This maintains continuity with Billina gaining the capacity for speech in Ozma of Oz—and also raises the point that, since even the Gump can talk in The Marvelous Land of Oz, everyone should be a vegetarian in Baum’s world as every single animal is a person and that, nonetheless, people (gumps) at least used to be hunted for sport in Oz. Retroactively, this also makes one wonder why Toto never talks in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The answer, of course, is that Baum was worldbuilding by the seat of his pants.

At last Dorothy and her friends land in the underground Land of the Mangaboos, where six suns arranged in a pentagram, each a different color, shine perpetually such that the sunlight varies between purple, blue, green, and so on, illuminating a city where every building is made of glass-like material. The Mangaboos are scary doll-like alien beings without emotion or expression, and they have no children: “There were men and women, but no children at all, and the folks were all beautifully formed and attractively dressed and had wonderfully handsome faces. There was not an ugly person in all the throng [of Mangaboo people], yet Dorothy was not especially pleased by the appearance of these people because their features had no more expression than the faces of dolls. They did not smile nor did they frown, or show either fear or surprise or curiosity or friendliness” (38). It later turns out that the Mangaboos are the literal fruit of “folk gardens,” where they grow on the vine into adults, gaining sentience and the ability to move only after they are picked. After being picked, each generation lasts about five years, the vegetable Prince tells Dorothy: “If we keep cool and moist, and meet with no accidents, we often live for five years. I’ve been picked over six years, but our family is known to be especially long lived” (60).

Nobody in this country uses stairs or other such devices because the gravity is so low that they are unnecessary. Baum imagines what a low-gravity scenario would be like, describing the characters rather confusingly, to a post-1960s mind already aware of such an environment, “walking through the air” (37). Instead of magic, Baum does have the Wizard explain the phenomenon scientifically in terms of gravity: “it is because we are close to the center of the earth, where the attraction of gravitation is very slight” (67). We now understand that gravitational force works in exactly the opposite way, and for all I know scientists already understood that in 1908, but Baum showcases tremendous creativity.

Sneaky Dorothy.

The description of the Land of the Mangaboos reflects a more contemporary style of worldbuilding, establishing concrete rules, social systems, social reproduction, alien biology, cultural attitudes toward death, etc. without resorting to magic. This segment of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz resembles science fiction as much as fantasy. The Land of the Mangaboos is also eerie and cold in a way Oz never is, even in its untamed form in the first two novels. It is already clear that the Mangaboos are upsetting beings. Unlike the peoples of Oz, the Mangaboos live in alien and inhospitable darkness cut through with various colors of light, have no kind of privacy, and have nothing in the way of beds or other comfortable furnishings beyond stiff vegetable matter. Their monolithic, seemingly glass edifices are living organisms. They do not repair damage after the earthquake but wait until the injuries heal. The emotionless locals put no value on their visitors’ lives and little on their own:

I have been talking with my advisors about you meat people, and we have decided that you do not belong in the Land of the Mangaboos and must not remain here.”
How can we go away?” asked Dorothy.
Oh, you cannot go away, of course; so you must be destroyed,” was the answer (78–79).